Opening Remarks by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, on the occasion of the Eleventh Meeting of the South Africa-Germany Bi-National Commission, Pretoria, 27 June 2023
Your Excellency Minister Baerbock,
Your Excellencies Ambassador Peschke and Ambassador Sizani,
Officials from the Governments of Germany and of South Africa,
I wish to extend a warm welcome to you, Madam Minister, and your delegation to South Africa. It has taken some time for us to find a mutually convenient date, but we are glad that you are here for the first time as Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany.
Our relationship with Germany is one of the most important and most strategic that we have with any country and our Bi-National Commission one of the most substantive that we have. It is not difficult to see why that is so.
- South Africa is Germany’s largest trading partner in Africa. At the same time, Germany is the third largest export market for South African products, most of which are value-added. The German economy is export-focused and yet we have a healthy trade surplus. Your country is a major investor in South Africa and an important development partner.
- Germany is the third largest source of overseas tourists to South Africa. Before the pandemic, we received about 350,000 German tourists a year. This dropped to only 44,000 in 2021, but is already back above the 200,000 mark.
- COVID illustrated the importance of international cooperation to deal with international problems. We differed strongly on issues of vaccine equity during the pandemic, but Germany is today an important partner in the establishment of the mRNA vaccine transfer hub in South Africa.
- Climate change is a matter of concern to all of us and will impact on all of us. Again, we can count on Germany as a valuable partner in our Just Energy Transition journey.
These are some of the highlights, but if one reads the Agreed Report of the BNC – almost fifty pages in total – it is clear that our relationship is very substantial, very diverse and that it benefits our people in various ways.
South Africa and Germany share many common values on matters of peace and security, human rights, climate change and sustainability, and economic development. In order to pursue these values more effectively, both South Africa and Germany believe in the need to reform the United Nations and we will discuss that as part of our agenda today.
Minister, we have spoken before on ways in which we can cooperate on the Women, Peace and Security agenda and it is regrettable that your visit does not allow sufficient time to introduce you to some of the projects that we have in this regard. I remain very interested, however, to have a discussion on WPS and to find ways in which South Africa and Germany could cooperate to improve the lives of women in places such as Afghanistan and Palestine.
Minister, the world is a different place from the time that we had the Tenth Bi-National Commission in March 2020. That took place right at the start of the pandemic and was in fact the first BNC that we had on a virtual platform. Today, we are faced with different and equally serious global challenges in Africa and elsewhere in the world, including in Europe where the war in Ukraine has had global ramifications. We will discuss these in more detail during our deliberations today.
In conclusion, Minister, I wish to say that South Africa is a country that is facing various challenges, but these challenges also bring great opportunities. You will be aware of our energy challenges, which can mostly be ascribed to our aging coal-fired power stations which can no longer function at optimum level. However, at the same time, the development of alternative energy sources, be they renewable such as solar or wind, or green hydrogen, have grown exponentially. Our Government will publish its strategy for electric vehicles in a few months and we hope that the German automotive companies that are here already will utilise this opportunity to expand their capacity and produce electric vehicles in the same quantity and quality as they do internal combustion engine vehicles at the moment.
Let me close by welcoming you again to South Africa Minister. I look forward to our deliberations today.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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